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Transport in South Korea

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Title: Transport in South Korea  
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Subject: Economy of South Korea, Korea, Transport in South Korea, Trade unions in South Korea, South Korea–Peru Free Trade Agreement
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Transport in South Korea

Transportation in South Korea is provided by extensive networks of railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services and air routes that criss-cross the country.


  • History 1
  • Railroad 2
    • Subways 2.1
  • Trams 3
  • Buses 4
    • Regional services 4.1
    • Local services 4.2
    • Other services 4.3
  • Roads 5
  • Waterways 6
    • Ferries 6.1
    • Ports and harbours 6.2
    • Merchant Marine 6.3
  • Air travel 7
    • Airports 7.1
  • Pipelines 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Development of modern infrastructure began with the first Five-Year Development Plan (1962–66), which included the construction of 275 kilometers of railways and several small highway projects.[1] Construction of the Gyeongbu Expressway, which connects the two major cities of Seoul and Busan, was completed on 7 July 1970.

1970s saw increased commitment to infrastructure investments. The third Five-Year Development Plan (1972–76) added the development of airports, seaports. Subway system was built in Seoul, highway network was expanded by 487 km and major port projects were started in Pohang, Ulsan, Masan, Incheon and Busan.[1]

Railroad network experience improvements in the 1980s with electrification and additional track projects. Operation speed was also increased on the main lines. Though the railroad was still more useful for transportation of freight, passenger traffic was also growing. There was 51,000 kilometers of roadways by 1988. Expressway network was expanded to connect more major cities and reached a combined length of 1,539 kilometers before the end of the decade.


KTX train

The largest railway operator is Korail. Railway network is managed by Korea Rail Network Authority.

Korea Train Express began service in April 2004, at Korea's first high-speed service. Intercity services are provided by Saemaeul-ho and Mugunghwa-ho. Saemaeul-ho generally stops less than Mugunghwa-ho and provides more comfortable seats and service. Tonggeun (commuter train, not to be confused with subways) serves some selected lines. They stop in all stations and seat reservation is not available.

New Nuriro-ho service was recently added between Seoul and Sinchang Station. Nuriro-ho serves commuters around Seoul Metropolitan Area, providing shorter travel time than Seoul Subway. The rapid trains have same cost and seat reservation as Mugunghwa-ho. Korail plans to expand the service area.[2] There's also a plan to introduce ITX-Saemaul, which is supposed to replace Saemaul-ho.


South Korea's six largest cities — Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon and Incheon — all have subway systems.

Seoul's subway system is the oldest system in the country, with the Seoul StationCheongnyangni section of Line 1 opening in 1974.


The first tram line in Seoul started operation between Seodaemun and Cheongnyangni in December 1898. The network was expanded to cover the whole downtown area (Jung-gu and Jongno-gu districts) as well as surrounding neighbourhoods, including Cheongnyangni in the east, Mapo-gu in the west, and Noryangjin across the Han River to the south.

The networks reached its peak in 1941,[3] but was abandoned in favor of cars and the development of a subway system in 1968. Seoul Subway Line 1 and Line 2 follow the old streetcar routes along Jongno and Euljiro, respectively.


Regional services

Highway bus lane on Gyeongbu Expressway in South Korea.

Virtually all towns in South Korea of all sizes are served by regional bus service. Regional routes are classified as gosok bus (고속버스, "high speed" express bus) or sioe bus (시외버스, "suburban" intercity bus) with gosok buses operating over the longer distances and making the fewest (if any) stops en route. Shioe buses typically operate over shorter distances, are somewhat slower, and make more stops.

Local services

Local bus in Seoul

Within cities and towns, two types of city bus operate in general: jwaseok (좌석, "coach") and dosihyeong (도시형, "city type") or ipseok (입석, "standing"). Both types of bus often serve the same routes, make the same (or fewer) stops and operate on similar frequencies, but jwaseok buses are more expensive and offer comfortable seating, while doshihyeong buses are cheaper and have fewer and less comfortable seats. Many small cities and towns do not have jwaseok buses and their buses are officially called nongeochon (농어촌, "rural area" bus).

Some cities have their own bus classifying systems.

Bus type Seoul Busan Daegu Daejeon
Jwaseok Rapid: Gwangyeok (광역), red
Trunk: Ganseon (간선), blue
Rapid: Geuphaeng (급행)
Coach: Jwaseok
Rapid: Geuphaeng
Trunk Coach: Ganseon jwaseok (간선좌석)
Rapid: Geuphaeng, red
Trunk: Ganseon, blue
Doshihyeong/Ipseok Trunk: Ganseon, blue
Branch: Jiseon (지선), green
Regular: Ilban (일반) Circulation: Sunhwan (순환)
Trunk: Ganseon
Branch: Jiseon
Trunk: Ganseon, blue
Branch: Jiseon, green
Village Branch: Jiseon, green
Circulation: Sunhwan, yellow
Village: Maeul-bus (마을버스) N/A Branch: Jiseon, green
Outer: Oegwak (외곽), green
Village: Maeul-bus

Other services

A limousine bus departing from Incheon Airport bus station to Jamsil subway station in Seoul.
A limousine bus departing from Incheon International Airport bus station

Incheon International Airport is served by an extensive network of high-speed buses from all parts of the country. Beginning in the late 1990s, many department stores operated their own small network of free buses for shoppers, but government regulation, confirmed by a court decision on June 28, 2001, have banned department stores from operating buses.[4] However, most churches, daycare centres and private schools still send buses around to pick up their congregants, patients or pupils.


Expressway arteries throughout South Korea

Highways in South Korea are classified as freeways (expressways/motorways), national roads and various classifications below the national level. Almost all freeways are toll highways and most of the expressways are built, maintained and operated by Korea Expressway Corporation (KEC).

The freeway network serves most parts of South Korea. Tolls are collected using an electronic toll collection system. KEC also operates service amenities (dining and service facilities) en route.

There are also several privately financed toll roads. Nonsan-Cheonan Expressway, Daegu-Busan Expressway, Incheon International Airport Expressway, Seoul-Chuncheon Expressway and parts of the Seoul Ring Expressway are wholly privately funded and operated BOT concessions. Donghae Expressway was built in cooperation between KEC and the National Pension Service.

Approaching Seoul from Incheon International Airport

Total length of the South Korean road network was 86,989 km in 1998. Of this, 1,996 km was expressways and 12,447 km national roads. By 2009, combined length of the expressways had reached approximately 3,000 km, it mostly equal to the whole area of South Korea

Total Expressways National roads Paved Unpaved
86,990 km 3,000 km 12,447 km 64,808 km 22,182 km


Virtually cut off from the Asian mainland, South Korea is a seafaring nation, with one of the world's largest shipbuilding industries and an extensive system of ferry services. South Korea operates one of the largest merchant fleets serving China, Japan and the Middle East. Most fleet operators are large conglomerates, while most ferry operators are small, private operators.

There are 1,609 km of navigable waterways in South Korea, though use is restricted to small craft.


Busan International Ferry Terminal

The southern and westerns coasts of the country are dotted with small islands which are served by ferries. In addition, the larger offshore Jeju and Ulleung Islands are also served by ferry. Major centres for ferry service include Incheon, Mokpo, Pohang and Busan, as well as China and Japan.

Ports and harbours

The cities have major ports Jinhae, Incheon, Gunsan, Masan, Mokpo, Pohang, Busan, Donghae, Ulsan, Yeosu, Jeju.

Merchant Marine

In 1999, there was a total of 461 merchant ships (1,000 GRT or over) totalling 5,093,620 GRT/8,100,634 tonnes deadweight (DWT). These are divisible by type as follows:[5]

  • bulk 98
  • cargo 149
  • chemical tanker 39
  • combination bulk 4
  • container 53
  • liquefied gas 13
  • multi-functional large load carrier 1
  • passenger 3
  • petroleum tanker 61
  • refrigerated cargo 26
  • roll-on/roll-off 4
  • specialised tanker 4
  • vehicle carrier 6

Air travel

Korean Air was founded by the government in 1962 to replace Korean National Airlines and has been privately owned since 1969. It was South Korea's sole airline until 1988. In 2008, Korean Air served 2,164 million passengers, including 1,249 million international passengers.[6]

A second carrier, Asiana Airlines, was established in 1988 and originally served Seoul, Jeju and Busan domestically and Bangkok, Singapore, Japan and Los Angeles internationally. By 2006, Asiana served 12 domestic cities, 66 cities in 20 foreign countries for commercial traffic and 24 cities in 17 countries for cargo traffic.[7]

Combined, South Korean airlines currently serve 297 international routes.[8] Smaller airliners, such as Air Busan, Jin Air, Eastar Jet and Jeju Air, provide domestic service and Japan/Southeast Asian route with lower fares.


Construction of South Korea's largest airport, Incheon International Airport, was completed in 2001, in time for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. By 2007, the airport was serving 30 million passengers a year.[9] The airport has been selected as the "Best Airport Worldwide" for four consecutive years since 2005 by Airports Council International.[10]

Seoul is also served by Gimpo International Airport (formerly Kimpo International Airport). International routes mainly serve Incheon, while domestic services mainly use Gimpo. Other major airports are in Busan and Jeju.

There are 103 airports in South Korea (1999 est.) and these may be classified as follows.

Airports with paved runways:
total: 67
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 18
1,524 to 2,437 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 20 (1999 est.)

Airports with unpaved runways:
total: 36
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 32 (1999 est.)

Heliports: 203 (1999 est.)


These pipelines are for petroleum products. Additionally, there is a parallel petroleum, oils and lubricants (POL) pipeline being completed

See also


  1. ^ a b "Infrastructure Development in Korea". United Nations Public Administration Network. Retrieved 2005-05-19. 
  2. ^ 무궁화호 열차 점차 사라진다, YTN, 2009년 6월 6일
  3. ^ 서대문-청량리~: 이이화, 《한국사이야기22. 빼앗긴 들에 부는 근대화바람》(한길사, 2004) 49쪽.
  4. ^ "Ban on the Shuttle Bus Operation Case". Constitutional Court of Korea. Retrieved 2005-05-19. 
  5. ^ "Ships by type (most recent) by country". Retrieved 2005-05-19. 
  6. ^ "Company Info / Overview". Korean Air. Retrieved 2005-05-19. 
  7. ^ "Overview / General Info". Asiana Airlines. Retrieved 2005-05-19. 
  8. ^ "International Aviation Policy". Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs. Retrieved 2005-05-19. 
  9. ^ "Incheon International Airport celebrates its eighth year". Incheon International Airport Corp. Retrieved 2005-05-20. 
  10. ^ "Incheon International Airport, Best Airport Worldwide for 4 Years Straight". Incheon International Airport Corp. Retrieved 2005-05-20. 

External links

  • Korea Expressway Corporation
  • Freeway system map
  • Korean Air
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Incheon International Airport
  • Gimpo International Airport
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